In the Myers-Briggs personality type system, individuals have a set of four primary functions, or cognitive functions, that dictate how they process information or make decisions. Order for these cognitive functions is based on personal preferences, with cognitive functions that come first being more dominant than the others.
However, the system also describes so-called “shadow” functions. In a nutshell, shadow functions can be best understood as the unhealthy or negative elements of a particular personality type. People are not normally aware of shadow functions, usually because they are in stark opposition to cognitive functions.
Let’s take a look at both the cognitive and shadow functions of the INFJ personality type now.
Like all MBTI types, the INFJ has four main cognitive functions.
Ni – Introverted Intuition
The first of these is Internal or Introverted Intuition. This dominant function describes how the INFJ sees their inner world and dictates how they come to conclusions about received information. Ni functions by taking in large amounts of information for looking at problems in a holistic way. INFJs often perceive events or people as parts of larger wholes, finding patterns or symbolism in apparently unconnected events or data points. Because it’s based on intuition, Ni is often expressed in a relatively abstract or dreamlike way.
This method of information gathering causes INFJs to constantly feel as though their inner world is always changing, though they also feel as though they have a good understanding of the outside world at large.
Fe – Extraverted Feeling
This is the first extroverted function of this type. It’s most often used when the INFJ interacts with the world in day-to-day ways. It’s also how INFJs process their emotion. As an extroverted function, INFJs often consider and perceive their emotional reactions and responses in relation to the emotions of others around them. This gives them keen insight into the feelings of others and can occasionally allow them to absorb (or highly empathize with) others’ emotions.
Such turbulent and intense emotions lead INFJs to have highly developed inner emotional lives. At the same time, it can make INFJs sensitive to the words of others and can cause INFJs to view all events as related to their feelings, even if only tangentially.
A good example might be an INFJ hearing that their department has lost their jobs at work. The INFJ would then most likely consider the feelings of themselves or others rather than more practical concerns.
Ti – Introverted Thinking
The third cognitive function of the INFJ is introverted thinking. This logical process operates internally and is based on individual logic. In a way, INFJs come up with their own interior logic through which they understand the world and come to certain value judgments. Additionally, this function helps the INFJ interpret the data that their Ni function brings in.
In many cases, INFJs will process events that they observe in the outside world using this function if others are not present. Alternatively, INFJs will often try to make intuitive leaps based on a personal brand of logic developed from their own experiences.
Even better, INFJs use their Ti to understand the abstract or symbolic actions than Ni brings to the table. In a way, the Ni function causes the INFJ to recognize that there is a connection between people or data points, but the Ti function is what actually allows the INFJ to interpret this information and come to a conclusion.
Se – Extraverted Sensing
The fourth and final cognitive function is extroverted sensing. It’s the least developed of the INFJ’s stable, and it helps the INFJ to be aware of their surroundings and appreciate tactile or physical sensations. Because it’s not very well-developed, INFJs tended to be in their heads and have difficulty remaining present in the moment or feeling connected to the real world.
This also means that many INFJs find the outside world as to stimulating or stressful. However, the Se function can also help them appreciate intense moments from time to time. Many INFJs, in moments of personal crisis, may try to feed their Se by focusing on cravings or bad physical habits. They might turn to temporary Sensory respites like a favorite food or pastime.
As mentioned above, shadow functions are something of polar opposites to the primary aspects of one’s personality. As a result, they can often manifest when we lash out at others or act out of character. Many believe that the shadow functions manifest in dreams or operate subconsciously, causing self-destructive behavior that leads to poor life choices.
Ne – Extraverted Intuition
This is the most advanced of all the shadow functions for the INFJ. It’s still entirely unconscious, but it largely manifests when the INFJ becomes defensive. INFJs can engage with Ne and become angry or belligerent when people don’t see things their way or aren’t willing to change their beliefs when provided with new options. They can appear hypocritical or a little confused in their own positions during moments like this, however.
Fi – Introverted Feeling
This second shadow function manifests as a strong and negative awareness of the INFJ’s values or beliefs and feelings. Since this is a shadow function, INFJs often express this shadow function by becoming indecisive about their own personalities or feelings regarding a thought or concept. In essence, they become fixated on shoving down their own feelings, as they’re more often concerned with the emotions of others. This can also manifest as a particularly criticizing voice, constantly berating the INFJ for various perceived mishaps.
Te – Extraverted Thinking
The third shadow function is extroverted thinking. Normally, Te looks at objective facts and logic in the world around the individual and makes decisions based on the data. When lashing out, an INFJ may try to use Te to take control of the situation and employ logic to try to outwit or out-argue their opponent. It often comes out when the INFJ believes that another individual is trying to take advantage of them.
They can also try to bring their Ti to bear, harnessing logic to “dismantle” the problem without regard for another’s feelings. Later, they may regret acting so coldly and harshly, even if, at the time, they felt that their opponent deserved it.
Si – Introverted Sensing
Finally, the fourth and least developed shadow function is the most suppressed part of the unconscious. For INFJs, it’s introverted sensing, and it’s the part of their personality that they have the least control over. Normally, Si focuses on the recollection of past experiences for judgment calls. In this negative context, INFJ Si reactions often fixate on mistakes of the past and can become immersed in previous trauma.
Additionally, Si lashing out can be accompanied by focusing on former failures, even to the point of remembering details and inaccurately casting themselves in an even worse light. This can take quite some time to shake off.
The INFJ personality type is one of the rarest and complex of them all, largely because so many of their primary functions take place inside a person. If you’re an INFJ, understanding both your primary and shadow functions will help you develop as a person and avoid harmful habits or decisions that engage your shadow functions too often.
Although millions of people visit Brandon's blog each month, his path to success was not easy. Go here to read his incredible story, "From Disabled and $500k in Debt to a Pro Blogger with 5 Million Monthly Visitors." If you want to send Brandon a quick message, then visit his contact page here.